Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo


Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

Data Mapping

Pollsters, public health officials, and marketing executives are among the many who use cartograms, special maps that provide a visual sense of geographic information by distorting it in proportion to a key variable. Researchers at AT&T labs in Florham Park, NJ, have created software that takes just minutes to calculate the distortion for thousands of regions (say, for all 3,066 U.S. counties), while old methods could take hours and could handle only tens of regions at a time. The AT&T technology reduces the computational job by imposing lines of various lengths and orientations across the map and performing size adjustments to the space on either side of each line. The process reconfigures geographic regions into recognizable but meaningfully transformed shapes without having to recalculate the whole map. Earlier cartogram programs used different approaches: Some treated the regions like balloons that inflated or deflated in a process that worked quickly but didn’t preserve recognizable shapes. Other software that treated the data as a series of mathematical equations produced more familiar and accurate shapes, but consumed hours of processing time. Daniel Keim, the new software’s lead developer, says AT&T began using it this year and researchers are refining it while the firm pursues licensing agreements.


0 comments about this story. Start the discussion »

Tagged: Business

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives


Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me